The private sector is driving toward cloud native, multi-cloud architectures and serverless computing. Government enterprise transformation efforts seek to follow this trend while ensuring continuity of operations for their large legacy, on-premises installations. Generally, these agencies haven’t been appropriated the resources to simultaneously maintain current operations and write new code or refactor old code for a cloud native environment. This reality has forced most agencies to take an incremental approach, lifting and shifting low hanging fruit and prioritizing high-use systems for modernization, while continuing to support aging, lower volume systems.

Most agencies have looked at Hyper Converged Infrastructure or HCI as an option to help bridge from traditional mix and match or curated on-premises infrastructure to a future in the cloud. HCI systems are all-in-one boxes that integrate networking, storage and compute. This integration simplifies configuration and management and reduces set up and operational costs. Scaling is as easy as adding more boxes, but it can also be inefficient as scaling one component, like storage, automatically comes with increases in compute and networking that might not be needed. Moreover, as more boxes are added to an enterprise, issues with shared bandwidth reduce networking efficiencies.

IIA Tech enterprise transformation architects are often asked about the value of HCI as an enterprise investment and the answer is not an easy Yes or No. If the agency’s goal is a cloud native architecture, HCI is a diversion, rather than an evolutionary milestone along that path. HCI can be seen perhaps as a high-speed train rather than a traditional bus, but if the ultimate goal is to fly, the decision to fund HCI requires a complex tradeoff analysis.

To help you with this assessment, IIA Tech system architects weigh critical financial and mission performance factors. For finances, the operating expenses (OpEx) of the current state is compared to the OpEx (and capital expenses or CapEx) of a prospective hybrid HCI environment and a cloud native environment. These costs include migration, training, and decommissioning costs. We then determine whether the return on investment over 3-5 years is compelling. If there are net savings, this money can be applied to rearchitecting legacy apps for microservices or serverless functions. Similarly, we assess the impacts of various scenarios on mission performance. For example, will availability or disaster recovery be enhanced? In our assessment we look to optimize partial, tactical HCI implementations that can improve the performance of high-volume systems.

Complicating this analysis further is the myth that cloud native computing is automatically more agile, more scalable, and more cost effective than other architectures. Many commercial and government organizations have arrived in the cloud only to find it much more expensive than they anticipated. Whether to push on towards serverless or retreat to a hybrid, multicloud environment, perhaps with HCI on premises, is also part of our analysis. None of this is simple. Managed services in the cloud can seem attractive in terms of labor costs until your organization becomes hostage to vendor lock in and all of your internal expertise has moved on. IIA Tech can help you work through these scenarios and their costs, benefits, and risks and pick the right solution for your organization.

If you would like to learn more about how to weigh transformation goals and technologies, please contact Varun Sarin.